There are plenty of ways to make a workout more challenging. You can add a workout finisher to spike your heart rate at the end of an exercise or even increase the weights or resistance that you’re working with. But perhaps the simplest way to up your workout? Adding in an elevated step to the moves you’re already doing.
Steps have been around since the era of, you guessed it, step aerobics. They’re essentially elevated platforms that you can step onto, or off of, to mix things up in your workout. These days, it’s also found in the form of plyo boxes, which are more square versions of the traditional step. But the idea is the same: A platform adds resistance and challenges the muscles that you’re using. “By implementing a foreign piece of equipment [like a step], the point is to increase the intensity of the exercise,” says Luke Milton, trainer and founder of Training Mate in Los Angeles.
When you’re stepping up, Milton explains that you’re recruiting more energy from the muscles in use since the elevation works as resistance. “Plyo boxes and steps create variety and intensity, and are a great way to implement dynamic movements into the workout,” he says, pointing to Bulgarian split squats and incline push-ups as examples of exercises you could do with one. “A box step-up, for instance, strengthens the major muscle groups of the lower body, while a box jump is great to increase intensity through an explosive jump.”
So you can take basic strength training moves to a platform for more of a challenge, like lunges or planks—these tools are versatile, so have (sweaty) fun with them. The good news? You can snag one off of Amazon, like the Tone Fitness Compact Aerobic Step Platform ($13) or the Rage Fitness Steel Plyo Box ($50). Keep scrolling for exercise ideas that you can try on the multifunctional equipment for yourself.
Try these 3 step workout exercises for a full-body workout
1. Bulgarian split squat: Place one foot on your step or box, and the other back into a lunge position with your knee hovering over the floor. “Distribute your weight through your front foot and engage your glutes, hamstrings, and quads,” says Milton. From here, shift your body down into a squat, hold, then stand back up to starting position. Repeat, then work the other leg. For more of a challenge, you can hold onto dumbbells in each hand.
2. Decline push-up: Place both of your feet hip-width apart on top of your platform, and your hands on the floor in a high plank position. Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders, and your hips should be tucked as you keep your spine neutral. From there, perform push-ups. Milton notes that this push-up variety will work more of your chest than a regular push-up will.
3. Box jump: Milton recommends using your step platform or plyo box to do box jumps, which add quick cardio to any workout. Stand in front of your platform with your feet shoulder-width apart. Slightly bend your knees as you start moving into a squat position, swing your arms back, then push from both feet into the air to land on the box. Try to land softly with your feet flat with your knees slightly bent.
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